Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tale of the New (Used) Car

There were a few things we had to get sorted straight away (notice the proper use of English language here ;). A car, a place to live, a local bank account, and a favourite pub. Okay, the last one wasn't really required per se, but it was necessary.

We had done a bit of thinking about this before we left UAE and knew that we wanted something smaller, cheaper (aka used) and easier on the petrol (that stuff's expensive again!). The Golf GTI, Mini Cooper and Ford Focus were all on the list so we set about researching car dealerships. Because we didn't yet have a car, we took public buses everywhere, which is actually a really great way to get to know the city and your way around, but does take a lot more time.

Our first stop was a Ford dealership that took us about 45 minutes to get to by bus and walking. Brian had found a used Focus with tons of extras and a good price. The only catch? It was mustard yellow! Still, we figured it was worth having a look and they had other used cars we could take a look at.

The experience was awful. First, the car was hideous - okay fine, we had a feeling that might be the case, but we were here now and might as well look around and get some help from one of the sales people. Wrong! The guy we talked to seriously 'couldn't be bothered'. It was like he had already made his commission for the month and had a candy crush score to beat or something. The sneering upper lip was only half of it. He told us we'd have to make a future appointment to test drive any of the cars! In general, it was like he was purposely suggesting we look elsewhere. Very strange - maybe he just doesn't like Americans?

But then a thought crossed our minds that maybe this was a cultural difference we didn't understand. Maybe here in the UK, sales people were rude and you had to pander to them? Maybe we had committed a grave faux pas by just showing up and were supposed to make an appointment? We decided to continue on to the VW dealer on the other side of town and try our luck.

Another 45 minutes by bus and walking and we stumbled across a Volvo dealer on the way to the VW dealer. We decided to have a quick look around and see if our suspicions about the culture of car buying in the UK were going to prove true.

Well, they didn't - the guy at the Ford dealership was just an ass. Here, we met Paul who was amazing. Kind, patient - spent loads of time with us explaining the Volvo line and also the car buying and insurance process in the UK. We never made it to the VW dealer that day because we ended up spending so much time at City Motors. And yes, we did test drive that day. He actually seemed a bit perplexed when we told him we had to make an appointment at the Ford dealership.

We found a car we liked, but decided to hold off and try the VW dealer the next day to drive the Golf and make sure the Volvo was what we wanted. We did and decided we liked the price and features of the Volvo better and headed back to try to do some negotiating with Paul.

Unfortunately, he wasn't working on Sunday and his colleague wasn't up for negotiating so we had to postpone. Brian worked through the negotiations by phone and email and an agreement was made. We would soon be the new owners of a Volvo V40 D4.

Here's what we learned:
  • Car negotiation is the same everywhere - lots of back and forth, posturing and play acting to get to a win-win price.
  • The license plate is registered to the car, not the individual so it goes along with the car when you sell it. Although you can still get custom plate, apparently so not sure how that works.
  • Diesel is as prevalent if not more so than petrol in the UK. Price is almost the same, but the gas mileage on a diesel is approx 10 mi/gallon higher. We got a diesel.
  • There is a road tax charged yearly that is based on your vehicle's emissions - or in other words, it's impact on the environment. This generally correlates to horse power, efficiency of the vehicle, etc. Our little gem pays NO road tax and on a good day could get up to 60 mpg!
  • Manual transmission is way more popular than automatic and it was actually difficult for us to find automatic transmissions (even in rental cars). They also cost a premium. So yes, ours is a manual and yes, we'll need to learn to shift with our left hand. Yikes!
  • And of course, you have to drive on the other side of the road - more on that in a future post!

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